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I welcome today's Matter of the Day, and I appreciate Mr Beattie for tabling it. I also welcome the widespread condemnation that has appeared from all sides of this House. Rightly so, because this issue serves to unite us.
I have no doubt that this attack was intended to kill. Thankfully, the officer is in a stable condition, but we could have been hearing about a loss of life this morning. This is not just an attack on our police service; this is an attack on the community and an attack on our country. It was reckless; multiple automatic rounds fired into a public space. I am disgusted.
There remains a continued threat against police officers and prison officers in Northern Ireland. We cannot become complacent, and whilst there is political instability happening in Northern Ireland right now, this threat has continued right through it. Others will see this as an opportunity to take advantage. If I can give a clear message to this Assembly today, it is that we, as elected representatives, can ensure they do not take advantage of that and we do stand united. Whilst I stand here as the representative for East Londonderry, I also have an interest as Justice Minister. I have been keeping in close contact with the Secretary of State and the Chief Constable on this issue.
It is something that does concern me. From the outset of the political instability, I was always concerned that someone would take advantage of it, and I hope this is not an example of that. If we can move forward, we have to move forward in the right space, because we cannot return to the dark days of the past. Today, we should all be condemning this most dreadful incident.
On another note, I want to pay tribute to the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Particularly in my experience as Justice Minister, I have seen the hard work that they do. They put their lives on the line every day for us, in the service of the people of Northern Ireland, and we cannot underestimate that. It is cowardly for someone to take an opportunity, as these despicable individuals have done last night, and it is nothing short of disgusting. That is the clear message that we, as a united Assembly, have to send out today.